Sustainable transport refers to the broad subject of transport that is sustainable in the senses of social, environmental and climate impacts and the ability to, in the global scope, supply the source energy indefinitely. Components for evaluating sustainability include the particular vehicles used for road, water or air transport; the source of energy; and the infrastructure used to accommodate the transport (roads, railways, airways, waterways, canals and terminals). Another component for evaluation is pipelines for transporting liquid or gas materials. Transport operations and logistics as well as transit-oriented development are also involved in evaluation. Transportation sustainability is largely being measured by transportation system effectiveness and efficiency as well as the environmental and climateimpacts of the system.
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Short-term activity often promotes incremental improvement in fuel efficiency and vehicle emissions controls while long-term goals include migrating transportation from fossil-based energy to other alternatives such as renewable energy and use of other renewable resources. The entire life cycle of transport systems is subject to sustainability measurement and optimization.
Sustainable transport systems make a positive contribution to the environmental, social and economic sustainability of the communities they serve. Transport systems exist to provide social and economic connections, and people quickly take up the opportunities offered by increased mobility. The advantages of increased mobility need to be weighed against the environmental, social and economic costs that transport systems pose.
Transport systems have significant impacts on the environment, accounting for between 20% and 25% of world energy consumption andcarbon dioxide emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from transport are increasing at a faster rate than any other energy using sector. Road transport is also a major contributor to local air pollution and smog.
The social costs of transport include road crashes, air pollution, physical inactivity, time taken away from the family while commuting and vulnerability to fuel price increases. Many of these negative impacts fall disproportionately on those social groups who are also least likely to own and drive cars. Traffic congestion imposes economic costs by wasting people’s time and by slowing the delivery of goods and services.
Traditional transport planning aims to improve mobility, especially for vehicles, and may fail to adequately consider wider impacts. But the real purpose of transport is access – to work, education, goods and services, friends and family – and there are proven techniques to improve access while simultaneously reducing environmental and social impacts, and managing traffic congestion. Communities which are successfully improving the sustainability of their transport networks are doing so as part of a wider programme of creating more vibrant, livable, sustainable cities.